We’re heading back to Kamigawa! It’s not new for Magic to return to planes we’ve been to before (both Ravnica and Innistrad may as well install revolving doors, we’re there so much), but Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is unusual in that this upcoming set looks vastly different to its predecessor. Gone is the Japanese-influenced fantasy setting: it’s time for cyberpunk Magic.
The original Kamigawa block, however, gave us a huge number of powerful and instantly recognizable cards, many of which were so good they ended up being banned across various formats. The competitive relevance of original Kamigawa hasn’t completely faded, and even today, much of the format is hugely relevant for EDH. Let’s get across 10 of the most iconic cards from Kamigawa!
If you’ve ever got got by someone packing a Hidetsugu’s Second Rite, you’ll know how it feels. Having them carefully manipulate your life total, make weird attacks that don’t make sense and generally do all sorts of confusing things just in order to get you to exactly 10 – you don’t forget losing like that quickly. After it was introduced to Historic, even MTGA players were no longer safe – whenever I’m reduced to exactly 10 life against a red deck, I always wonder… am I about to get got by a Second Rite?
No one is ever doing anything fair with Through the Breach, of course. This card was once a real force to be reckoned with in Modern, cheating everything from Primeval Titan to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play. One really interesting thing about this card, when it comes to the Ultimate Masters reprint, is that the way in which the card is usually played actually influenced the creative direction the reprint’s art took: obviously the original Kamigawa version never could have foreseen cheating in Emrakul, but the most recent printing represents exactly that taking place.
Speaking of Modern has-beens, how about Kiki-Jiki? Back in the old Birthing Pod days, Kiki-Jiki was a combo piece that could win the game on the spot alongside a Restoration Angel. Pod decks usually looked for a combo finish, whether it was with something like Kitchen Finks and Melira, Sylvok Outcast or Kiki-Jiki and Resto, but since Pod’s ban Kiki-Jiki has had a quieter time. Some people attempted to use him as a replacement for Splinter Twin after its ban, but the Mirror Breaker never quite got there.
I don’t know that Shrines have ever been Constructed-playable. Certainly the most recent round of them, brought to us in M21, didn’t really help their competitive viability, even with Sanctum of All – but you can’t deny that the Shrines, particularly the original cycle of Hondens, are hugely iconic cards. Even seeing a single one in your opponent’s deck tells you exactly what they’re trying to do (five-color, clunky, sorcery-speed nonsense) and exactly how difficult it will be for you to win the game (not very).
The cycle of single-color legendary lands from original Kamigawa are amongst the priciest cards in the entire block (except poor old Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers, perhaps). The reason? Commander! Shizo, Death’s Storehouse helps your general get in for sneaky unblocked damage, Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep makes blocking a nightmare, while Eiganjo Castle helps to protect fragile commanders from harm. This cycle is joined by a bunch of other iconic legendary lands, such as Oboro, Palace in the Clouds, Boseiju, Who Shelters All, and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea. It’ll be interesting to see if Neon Dynasty also goes deep on legendary lands
While we’re still talking about Commander, we have to mention Kodama’s Reach. Kodama’s Reach and the essentially functionally identical Cultivate are amongst the most-played cards in the entire format, and can be found in more or less every single green EDH deck. As most Commander decks are multicolored, and as both fixing colors and hitting land drops are essential to success in the format, it ultimately comes as little surprise that a card as unassuming as this one ends up doing so much work.
Of all the Rampant Growths ever printed, Sakura-Tribe Elder might be the best. It is, essentially, a Rampant Growth that chump-blocks their opening attack, but should you need a warm body rather than an extra land, Sakura-Tribe Elder is here to provide you with just that. A 1/1 isn’t the most impressive stat line, but hey, a creature is a creature, and flexibility is worth a lot in Magic. To all the Sakura-Tribe Elders of the world: we salute you. It’s possible that only Solemn Simulacrum has chump-blocked more damage than you.
One mana, three damage. What a combo. One of the best Magic cards ever printed, Lightning Bolt, offers this deal for you – but Lava Spike is even better, as it reduces the number of choices available for you to make and therefore is a very difficult card to make mistakes with. When to cast it? In your main phase. What to target? Your opponent. None of this instant-speed nonsense, none of this threat evaluation rubbish – just send three damage at their scone and be done with it.
Sensei’s Divining Top is not a card you see all that often these days. It’s been banned in Modern since forever, but its ban in Legacy was the interesting one – it wasn’t done so much on power level (although UW Miracles was definitely a very powerful deck, with Top plus Counterbalance to lock people out), but more on the fact that Miracles took ten thousand years to close out a game. As for the mirror? Forget about it, the heat death of the universe would come quicker. Top bit the dust as it slowed down games, matches and tournaments way too much. I just feel sorry for this person.
Umezawa’s Jitte is not only one of the most powerful cards from the original Kamigawa, but also one of the most famous. Widely considered one of the best Limited cards of all time, the card makes combat nightmarish for any creature deck, and is a staple of Stoneblade decks in Legacy (as it’s banned in essentially every other competitive format). From Cube to Commander, Umezawa’s Jitte is still more or less the best cheap Equipment you can suit your team up with, and it’s always extremely entertaining to see a new player’s response when they first learn it’s “deals combat damage”, not “deals combat damage to a player”.
The original Kamigawa block came out a long time ago, and Magic has changed enormously since then. I wonder how Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty will stack up against its predecessor, and which of these famous cards will be referenced in the new set. For all its faults, Kamigawa is still a set beloved by many, and I know a lot of Magic fans are very excited to head back to Kamigawa and explore its new look!